IN THE COURTRTOOM Second case of SEDITION (Treason) against Lokmanya Tilak 1908 



The decision of Lord Curzon to partition Bengal on 16 October 1905 provoked a great deal of public discontent and in 1908, it generated wave of public outrage. Lokmanya Tilak wrote two articles against the government on 12 May 1908, ‘The country’s misfortune’ and on 9 June 1908, ‘These measures are not sustainable’. Incidentally on April 30, 1908, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose hurled a car bomb on the train at Muzaffarpur with intention to kill Douglas Kingsford, the Chief Presidency Magistrate in Calcutta. Unfortunately two women passengers traveling in the train-car were accidentally killed. The incident resulted in to spread of fear and anger across the country, mainly among the ‘Anglo-Indian’ population. The British government lost it’s Mental control due to this incident and decided to give retaliatory response  to this terrorism with its own counter terrorism!Two repressive laws, the Explosives Act and the Provocation for Crime Act, were enacted on June 8, 1908. Tilak defended the revolutionaries in Kesari newspaper. Tilak was charged with sedition / treason on the grounds that the writing was provocative.

Anglo-Indian newspapers, opened up vicious Propaganda Front against the Anti- “Lokmanya Tilak,, the “proponent of nationalism and an Father of ‘Indian discontent’. The case was filed against him by Lord Sydenham with intention to “Curb the “Conspiracy to overthrow the government’, and to teach a unforgettable and formidable lesson.


On behalf of British Government Advocate General  Mr. Branson said: “I want to make it AMPLY clear that the case against the accused Bal Gangadhar Tilak should be tried by a special JURY because this case is very very important. I strongly recommend since both the allegations in the two cases are strongly  inter related and hence should be pursued jointly. 

Justice Nyahayamurti Davar: – “Mr. Tilak, YOUR Articles are not just filled to the Brim with Sedition (treason) but have crossed the limits and overflowing! It also preaches atrocities and violence. You also justify the dreadful activities and atrocities committed by your people!  You have welcomed the bombshells as if they have descended and introduced in India to assure welfare of the people of India! Every week, you have been writing Articles to encourage and incite atrocitiesHowever, considering your age and physical condition, both offenses, under Articles 124A and 153-A of the Indian Penal Court, you are being sentenced to only for 6 years imprisonment and not life imprisonment. Under third allegation you are being charged with fine of Rs. 1000.

(Peace and Pin drop silence in court)

Court proceedingsFacilitator:

So let’s see how this Sedition / Treason case progressed and developed.

Deputy Superintendent of Police: – Yesterday, on 23rd June, 1908, the Government of Mumbai has approved the filing of a case against Tilak. Today, on 24th June, 1908, I as an Deputy Superintendent of Police , Bombay, am filing a complaint before the, Chief Presidency Magistrate, Mr. Austin (Bombay),

The text of the complaint

In the May 12 issue, Mr. Tilak, you have penned An Editorial in  ‘Kesari’ with Headline- ‘Misfortune of the Country’. This led to arousal of hatred and contempt in the minds of the people at large against the government. It was an intended attempt to do so. Similarly, your Article dated  9th June, and your speeches and writings led to violation and breach of the unity and integrity of the country. This is Of course,  crime of Sedition / treason. In view of it, arrest warrant was issued by Sir Magistrate under Section 124A and Section 153A. Hence you have been arrested from Sardargarh.

Facilitator: – (On July 3, the Government had requested that a special jury be appointed for Tilak’s justice. Accordingly, 7 European and 2 Parsi Juries were selected.).

Facilitator: – The proceedings of this historic case started on Monday 13th July 1908 in the presence of Justice Dinsha Dawar in the ‘Criminal Sessions’ on the 2nd floor of the Center Court Hall of the Mumbai High Court.

On behalf of the British Government, Advocate General Shri R. Etc. Branson was a present. Barrister Inverarity and Mr. Binning assisted him. On behalf of ‘Defence’, Tilak himself was conducting the work of the defense.

Inverarity :– Mr. Tilak, do you have anything to say about the allegations made against you? Tilak: I am not guilty, I am not guilty.

Inverarity :– Apart from the articles on May 12 and June 9, you have written number of Articles which can incite hatred against the Government. Apart from it, you have been always helping the revolutionaries. However, Hence I will provide you a general explanation about Section number 124A and 153A. This is since you have been arrested under these sections.

Section 124A: – If a person is trying to create hatred against the Government established by law in India, in words, in writing or in spoken language, or with some symbolic or visual representation or any through any other Medium, he is liable for ‘life imprisonment’ and Financial penalties should also be imposed.As also-

Section 153a: If a person is spreading animosity or trying to create hatred on the basis of religion, race, language, place of birth or place of worship, then he is liable to be punished.

Witness testifying begins on behalf of Government.  

First WitnessAssistant Oriental Translator – Bhask Vishnu Joshi.

Bhaskara Vishnu Joshi: – I am the translator Bhaskara Vishnu Joshi. For Registration of Proofs for this Case, I have translated various articles from Kesari into English. I have reviewed the dates of these Articles,, lengths, widths, measurements, the texts of translations and overall  reviews of those articles. I am presenting these Articles before the court. (Hands over the Documents)

Second Witness – Kesari Agent – Narayan Datar.Narayan Datar: –

I am Kesari’s agent- Narayan Jaggannath Datar. My work is only limited to Distribution in Mumbai. That’s what I record every day. I have nothing to do with his writings.

Third Witness – Mumbai Police Inspector Sullivan: – I am Mumbai Police Inspector Sullivan. I searched  Tilak’s Mansion.

MAJISTRATE (JUSTICE) -: – Please let me know what did you find during your Search Operations in Tilak’s Mansion?

Sullivan: – During the search Operations of Tilak’s Library Room, in one of the Table Drawer I found few NEWS PAPER clippings, few Papers with inscriptions, Names of two Books, Papers and Documents in English were read by Foreign (White) officers while the Documents in Marathi were read by native police.

MAGISTRATE(JUSTICE):- Mr. Tilak do you want to reply or put up your defense?

(Detailed reply by Tilak to the court / Seat of Justice) Tilak: – As the editor and publisher, I am fully responsible for the articles in the complaint. I will put up my point wise Arguments.

First of all, all my articles have been presented as criminal writings.  The subtle sounds and punctuation of words are pronounced differently in each language. We have translations in front of us. No original articles. Original articles are written in Marathi for Marathi readers.

Secondly, it is not a question of whether sedition (treason) is likely to take place because of one word or another, but whether the Sedition  (treason) has actually taken place in reality. There is no Proof that my Articles have generated Popular Unrest. Only language of My articles do not lead or result into Unrest.  This article can offer negligible proof of Ana, one sixteenth of a Rupee value. You need proofs equivalent to Balance of a Rupee. It is up to the JURY to observe and find out whether I have crossed the limits or I have followed the confines of Limits. The Jury  represents the People and expected to protect us. In that sense, I consider myself to be Fortunate that the case is not before a Magistrate.

The job of an editor like me is just to write articles. The editor is in a way an independent Individual.  If People are being Tyrannize, bombs are being blown up, murders are being committed, lawsuits like those of Khudiram Bose are filed, then, in that case it is appropriate for me to write articles. In such a case, the editor must perform his duty.

I will now illustrate with one example how ridiculous the translation has been made. The meaning of ‘national flag’ is very simple. But here instead of ‘Dhwaj” i.e. Flag, translation of word ‘Vadh’ has been done meaning Assassination! As if ‘nation’ is ‘Human Body’ an incarnate man, Who will punish someone on the basis of such distorted translation?

Day before yesterday when I asked the government appointed translator, translation or synonym of one word, he said, “I’ll tell you tomorrow.”

Pioneer, Statesman, Times of India as well as most Marathi language journalists, journalists from all and across political parties have followed the same ideology. So how can you say that my intentions are so misplaced and bad?

The British came to rule here not only for philanthropy but also for their selfish attitude. Dadabhai, Evanson Bell have expressed identical views in their writings. So why me?  So when we  speak and write the same why it stings the ears, why it tastes so bitter to mind? So why are we termed Seditious?You may say that Anglo Indian letters insult you. So why not prosecute and sue them? When Captain Hierse was condemned by the daily ‘Pioneer’, he did not go to court, but went to the editor’s office and whipped him. But what will I do? I had a pen in my hand. I wrote with my pen.

In 1893, dynamite and explosives were found in a man’s house in the UK. An article titled ‘Mystery of Dynamite’ was published while protesting against it. But no one sued them!

Now about the card which was found in my Drawer. Only Titles of a few books on ‘explosives’ were written on it.  Had that knowledge been so precious to me I would have kept it hidden and secret, isn’t it? Where was this card found? It was kept in the drawer of my table along with odds and ends, irrelevant papers!

My single article has been leveled with two distinct charges under two Clauses. Both 124A and 153A should have one single charge. It is a mistake to make two allegations.

Hence, all Descent and Honorary Jurists, I have completed most of the issues and points of my defense narrative.  I am very grateful to all of you for listening to my speech quietly and with patience for the last 7 days. I am also thankful to the public prosecutor who never interrupted me even once and showed me all courtesy in dealing with me. This country is currently trapped in the state of emergency. And hence future generations will View your present Verdict in the same light.

My language is rough, blunt and straightforward. My language as not as polished and elegant as that of an adept Lawyer!  Hence instead of providing importance to my language, I hope you will focus on the issues and points I have put forth and appropriate justice!

Advocate General, Shri. Etc. Branson’s speech (key points).

Whatever interpretations Mr. Tilak drew from the Articles, he did not provide any supportive evidence.  He unnecessarily provided long tedious account of bunch of texts and created confusion in the minds all of us and wasted our time!

The country is in turmoil or boiling with unrest. But it does not make sense to say that this unrest has not led to Revolt!  Your definition of the word ‘attempter’ is incorrect. However since the fire did not lead to Ignition, can we conclude that the Original mischief-maker, the arsonist is Innocent!? In this case, you just want others to get deceived.

Only because Tilak says that these translations are wrong does not make them wrong!  Similarly, Tilak’s claims that I do not approve of Atrocities of the Bombing is a Pure Sham!  Tilak’s Articles amount to state that, “Carry out political Reforms and give us rights or else we will drop Bombs” .Hence I am the editor and my intentions are pure”. This is the pretense he has resorted to!.On one point, myself and Mr. Tilak are in complete Agreement, keep in mind only the things whichever and whatever that you have directly heard  in the court.  Whatever that you have heard outside the court get rid of them from your mind.

Facilitator: – After that Magistrate promulgated his Punishment to Mr. Tilak-  – Six ( 6)  years Imprisonment and  Rs. 1,000 /- Fine!.

Tilak Replied on it:

Lo. Tilak: “I have very little to say on it. Let the jury convict me, alright, let him do it.  But I am not guilty. There exists, one such power that controls worldly matters and is superior to the judiciary. Maybe it is Will of the God that I should be punished and  the Punishment I will undergo and endure will Energize the cause undertaken.

Power of his Speech turned out to be Prophetic! It turned the discourse of History.

Finally Justice Davar: . Tilak, it is my duty to pronounce your Punishment!  I’ am deeply saddened to tell you. You are very intelligent, full of strength and you have great Influence over people. You should have used it for the Benefit of the People of this country.

However, considering your age and other factors, you are being sentenced to six years of Imprisonment and Fine of Rs. 1000 /-.

Facilitator of History It was ten o’clock at night when the JUDGEMENT Details of Punishment were pronounced and became Public. The next day  it was 23rd July. It was Tilak’s Birthday. It was as if the government had given him a Birthday GIFT.  When this result was known and flashed, a dark shadow of grief spread among the people.

Tilak was secretly taken out through the side doors. No one had any idea where Tilak was being taken!  The Prime and haunting question before the people was whether Lokmanya Tilak would come alive or not after Six Years of this rigorous Imprisonment!

Concept by Dr. Rashmi Phadanvis.(Secretary Lokmanya Seva Sangh, Vile Parle)
Script by Vasanti Gokhale & Translation by Anil Gokhale

Mrs. Vasanti Gokhale is a Marathi writer. 



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